Toby's reviews

  • Nikon 50mm f/1.4G AF-S Nikkor

    6 out of 10 points and not recommended
    The (slow) autofocus will work also on cameras not supporting AF-D
    Autofocus too slow, image quality average, no image stabilizer

    Considering that this is a prime, the sharpness is rather average (on my D300). It is certainly not to complain about, but also nothing to get excited about. E.g. only at f2.8 (or smaller) the sharpness matches my 16-85 DX VRII set at f4. I would have expected a much better performance from a prime as compared to a zoom lens.

    Build quality seems to be ok and is certainly better than the one of my 16-85 VRII.

    I have to agree with the test: The autofocus is really slow! If you use the lens in theaters or concerts, the slow focus will make you miss some good shots. Again, the 16-85 (or the brillant 70-300 4.5-5.6 VRII) show how it can be done.

    I would rather opt for the 1.4 AF-D, if I were not expecting that Nikon will slowly phase out camera bodies supporting the AF-D system.

    Following the first posting of my review I got so fed up with the slow AF that I finally exchanged the lens for an AF-D.

    I was absolutely annoyed by the slow autofocus of the AF-S, I missed too many good picture opportunities.

    Now, the autofocus of the 1.4 /50 AF-D is about twice as fast on my D300 body.

    Large aperture lenses like the 1.4/50 are being bought for low light portrait/people photography. In such situations you just need to be quick.

    For a lens of this size, you would expect an VR, but it is bulky even without it. The AF-D is only about two thirds of the size and currently you can get it as a real bargain.

    The image quality of the AF-D may be slightly better, but it does not appear to make a practical difference.

    reviewed June 5th, 2009 (purchased for $475)
  • Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX AF-S Nikkor

    4 out of 10 points and not recommended
    Small, AF-S will work on any future camera body
    Underexposure at open aperture

    I have to say that I did not buy the lens, so my review relates only experience from testing in two shops.

    I considered it most striking that both samples I tested were producing significantly underexposed pictures at f1.8 as compared to f 2.8, both on my own D300 as well as on one of the shop's D300. I am tempted to say that the lens semed lika a 1:2.5 simply with underexposure at an alleged 1:1.8. My recommendation is to test the lens on your body before buying and to compare exposure across the range of apertures.

    Sharpness seemed to be ok, taking into account the price. However, if it turns out that you can not really use f1.8 due to underexposure, then you may rather take your pictures with a higher quality zoom and ramp up the ISO a little.

    Construction seemed to be good, but I can not say much more since I do not own the lens

    reviewed June 5th, 2009
  • Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED VR AF-S Nikkor

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    SHARPNESS!!! Excellent VR
    Relatively small widest aperture

    The test is absolutely correct: This lens is extremely sharp across the entire zoom range at open aperture (on my D300, so I have no experience on a full frame body).

    If you are willing to carry the weight, it certainly a better choice than the 55-200 mm lenses ( I compared it to a 55-200 VR in a shop).

    If a wider aperture lens is too heavy or expensive for you, this is probably your first choice.

    I do agree with my fellow posters that the VR is simply amazing. If you have steady hands, you can use the lens at 300 mm and 1/30 sec - with the results being more than acceptable.

    The autofocus is fast and precise, it is quite possible to use the lens even under low light conditions in theaters or concerts. Of course, if it moves out of focus completely, you may have to help manually in order to bring it back quickly.

    I still own a 80-200 f4 Zeiss for my Contax - and I have the impression that the Nikon is better (particularly due to the VR)

    Build quality generally seems to be ok (of course, due to some plastic materials as well as AF and VR, it compares to my Zeiss like a bicycle to a tank).

    reviewed June 5th, 2009
  • Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR DX AF-S Nikkor

    5 out of 10 points and recommended
    Sharpness (if you are lucky to get a good specimen), little distortion, little vignetting
    Poor quality control of Nikon, poor build quality

    This lens is an example of good construction but poor quality control.

    I bought my first specimen in a Kit with a D300. I was generally surprised by quite good sharpness, good VR, little vignetting, and very little distortion - until I realized that at certain apertures (approximately f8 to f16) there was a small but completely unsharp point in the very middle of the picture.

    I went to my dealer and switched the lens. Unfortunately, I did not test the new sample in the shop, because this lens No. 2 did not focus to a distance smaller than about 0.8 m (making a sound like mouse being squeezed). Trying to turn the zoom ring, I realized that something was really wrong about this lens. Went back to my dealer (facing the usual "this is the first time that a 16-85 is being returned" and replying "well, for me it is the second time") and exchanged the lens.

    This time, I tested the lens No. 3 in the shop (my usual but simple test of taking flash pictures of a small print newspaper section). Comparing it with the dealer's specimen from his test range (i.e. lens No. 4), I realized that the dealer's sample was significantly sharper (the dealer agreed). I was about to buy the dealer's sample as I checked the corner sharpness across the zoom range: Two corners were completely unsharp, demonstrating that the lens was not centered correctly. At this time, a piece fell from my D300 (one of the connections holding the inbuilt flash in position) and I was about to return the entire Nikon Kit. My dealer grew slightly uneasy and agreed to have me test a specimen No. 5. Lens No. 5 turned out to be ok and I still own it. In the end, I am satisfied with sharpness, also at open aperture, very little vignetting and very little distortion). Also my D300 has not lost any pieces anymore.

    I do not understand why a lens in this price category is sold like bananas at a fruit stand: If the dealer allows, the customer may choose a sample that is not rotten. It appears like an insult to the engineers who spend time to construct a surprisingly good zoom lens only to experience a lack in adjustment and quality control compromising this quality.

    I would be more cautious in my statements had I not seen similar reports being posted on various sites.

    If you like the lens (and there are some pro's - e.g. there are not many zoom lenes that can offer such little distortion at an equivalent of 24 mm), I can only recommend to test it thoroughly at your dealer's shop. Consequently, I would not buy the lens via the internet.

    My lesson is that name Nikon does not guarantee a certain level of quality control. Particularly the DX lenses should be checked with great care before buying.

    reviewed June 5th, 2009
  • Tamron 60mm f/2 Di II LD IF Macro 1:1 SP AF

    8 out of 10 points and recommended
    large aperture, long working distance, lightweight, compact, nice bokeh
    none, unless you are looking for an FX lens

    The lens is a recommendable/preferable alternative to Nikon's 60 mm and 85 mm lenses.

    The Nikon 60 mm AF-S changes the focal distance to somthing like 40 mm when focusing closely, in contrast the Tamron appears to be a true 60 mm lens. Result: The Nikon 60 mm AF-S has a working distance of 5 cm at 1:1, whereas the Tamron has about 10 cm (you just need to compare the closest focus distance of the lenses).

    Therefore, the Nikon AF-S 60 mm will shield off any natural light at close focus, whereas the Tamron allows for light and a reasonable escape distance for insects.

    Therefore, the Nikon is not acceptable to me and I would highly recommend the Tamron over the Nikon - unless it would not significantly underexpose on my D300 body (I have tested three samples now, all do underexpose by about 1 f stop (I have tested only the A exposure mode, I admit)) compared to other lenses.

    The issue is also reported on, along with a saddening report about the lack of service in this matter by Tamron Europe.

    I have decided to wait until the bug is fixed either by Tamron or by Nikon.

    Sharpness even at open aperture and also at normal working distance appears to be excellent. The AF seems to work slightly less smooth and quick than the AF-S of the Nikon 60 mm.

    Note added September 2012:

    The underexposure issue on Nikon has been resolved.

    I have now owned the lens for more than one year. It has become one of my favourites and it has given me many beautiful pictures.

    It is compact and lightweight, so the lens gives me company also on mountain tours etc. . Build and image quality are excellent, only the AF could be better.

    If you are looking for a DX lens, then I would much prefer this lens over the Nikon 2.8/60, which changes its focal length the closer the focus is (resulting in a ridiculously short working distance).

    reviewed March 20th, 2010
  • Nikon 60mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Micro Nikkor

    6 out of 10 points and recommended
    Smooth AF, manual focusing possible any time, full frame compatible
    changes focal length at higher magnification, somewhat bulky

    I have now tested several samples. Although it seems to be a sharp lens, one should know that the focal length changes considerably at higher magnification ratio. At 1:1, the working distance is only about 5 cm cmpared to the Tamron 60 mm lens in which the working distance is about 10 cm (on a Nikon D300, APS-C sensor).

    Therefore the lens will cast its own shadow on the subject to be photographed. For me this is clearly not acceptable. I am still looking for a decent 60 mm macro lens for Nikon (the Tamron 60 mm f/2 having an unpleasant tendency to underexpose).

    reviewed April 1st, 2010